‘What are we doing in our churches to teach our children, teens and young adults the importance of corporate prayer? And not just teach, but model?’
As I am sure is the case with many who are reading this article, I was brought up being taught the importance of a daily quiet time - time set aside each day to read God’s Word and pray (undoubtedly, an essential part of our Christian life). What I do not remember is the same energy being given to teaching us the importance of communal prayer. If I am honest, looking back, my sub-conscious perception was probably that prayer meetings were for old people.
My first experience of a prayer meeting was during my first semester at Queen’s. One Thursday night at the Christian Union, they announced that they were having a half-night of prayer. I did not give it a second thought, but when the meeting finished, a friend came up to me and said: ‘We’re going to the prayer meeting’, to which I immediately responded: ‘I’m not’. As she became more insistent, I became more defensive. Then I played my trump card - if I went to pray during the night, I would be so tired during my classes the next morning, and ‘that would be a bad testimony’. (Why is it the longer we spend in the church, the better we become at finding spiritual-sounding excuses?) She still would not give up, so I eventually conceded to go along for one hour; in the end, I was there for three.
Not my finest hour, but I share this testimony because I now look back on this moment as a key moment in my Christian life. Before ever responding to God’s call to be a missionary, I needed to respond to his call to live for him, to make him the priority in my life. For me, this is partly reflected in a commitment to pray together with other Christians. Since that Thursday night in Belfast, I have always sought to make participation in corporate prayer a priority.
Jesus obviously talked about and modelled the importance of personal, private prayer (Matt. 6:6; Mark 1:35); but when his disciples asked him to teach them how to pray, he taught ‘Our Father’, ‘Give us...’, ‘forgive us…’ (Matt. 6:9; Luke 11:1-4). Jesus assumed corporate prayer would be part of our normal Christian experience.
Aside from the personal challenge to each person reading this (possibly the same ‘old’ people who already attend prayer meetings?), I want to end by asking – ‘What are we doing in our churches to teach our children, teens and young adults the importance of corporate prayer? And not just teach, but model?’ This may require some creativity, perhaps occasional adjustments to weekly timetables, so that we can see children, teens, and adults praying together. If we manage this, I believe the benefits will be significant not simply for all those who participate; but also for the future of our churches. This is where future IBC students, missionaries, deacons, elders, pastors will be formed.
Bio: Andrew Elliott is a missionary in Algeciras. He is married to Rosalia. They have two daughters.
(This article appears in the August/September 2018 issue of Insight - page 15. It is one in a series of eight articles on corporate prayer. Extra copies are available – please email firstname.lastname@example.org for details.)